Bill's Vignettes

This is my story. It will consist of little pictures, snippets, or vignettes, from my past. It is a legacy to my children and grandchildren and those that may come after and hopefully will also be of some interest to the casual reader who doesn't know me from Adam.

Archive for October, 2007


Posted by sundoulos2005 on October 17, 2007

My first duty station after boot camp was Torpedoman “A” School at the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare School (FLASWSCHL) in San Diego. Everything in the Navy has an acronym. Some can be pronounced. This is not one of them.

The base is probably the smallest base in California. At the time I was there it was home to three distinct units: Torpedoman “A” School, Sonarman “A” School, and a radio command. I was assigned to the radio command while waiting for school to start. Not being skilled at anything I made coffee and ran errands. During my short stay there we had a personnel inspection and I found out that my commanding officer was a Vice-Admiral. It was a small command consisting of less than 25 people. But it must have been an important command to rate such a high-ranking officer.

The base is one of the nicest bases I have been on. There were the school buildings, the radio command building, a few barracks, an enlisted men’s club (EM Club) and a brand new swimming pool. There was at least one pier which almost became two piers when a minesweeper tried to cut it in half. It did not have many of the amenities that larger bases have, but the Recruit Training Command was within walking distance and they had everything.

The base is located at the junction of North Harbor Drive and Nimitz Boulevard. The Recruit Training Command (the Marine Corps side was featured in Gomer Pyle, USMC) was nearby as was the airport. North Harbor Drive was a straight shot into downtown San Diego. On top of all this, the weather was the greatest — always sunny and warm.

Torpedoman “A” School was the primary school for future torpedomen, as the “A” indicates. There are also “B” and “C” schools for more specialized training in a variety of interests and disciplines. The first half of the school I was attending was called E&E school — Electricity and Electronics. Although transistors had been used in commercial applications for five or more years, my class was the first to be taught transistor theory. I liked this part of the school and especially the lab work, which consisted of building a superhetrodyne radio. One day near the completion of the project I picked up my radio by the chassis and, not having pulled the plug, found myself and my chair flying across the room when my fingers crossed the primary coil.

The second half of the school introduced us to the torpedoes we would be using in the fleet. Our class was taught the Mark 27, Mark 14-3A and Mod. 5, the Mark 16, and the Mark 37 Mods O and 1. All the torpedoes except the Mark 37’s were WW II vintage.The Mark 27 had four hydrophones and lead acid batteries. It would be out of service in about 18 months. The Mark 14-3A, a steam torpedo, was already obsolete, but was the basis for the Mod 5. That training would come in handy years later, when I was on the Robert E. Lee. The Mark 16 was a Navol torpedo and rather dangerous to have aboard. Many captains refused to use it. The Mark 37’s were homing torpedoes, the Mod 1 being wire-guided.

I graduated high enough to earn a promotion, but accepting it would have required an additional year’s service. I did not accept it.

While going to school we also had to stand watches. I was fortunate to often be named a supernumerary — an extra person and not needed for the watch bill. We stood watches on the gate on the weekends, barracks watches, swimming pool watch (after someone had defecated in it the night before it was to be opened to the forces), and dumpster watches. Why the Navy insisted we guard its garbage containers, I’ll never know.

Today the base is different from when I was stationed there. You can see that it is filled with structures, most of which were built after 1964. The ones I remembered are no longer there. Only the swimming pool is recognizable. Oh, well, nothing stays the same — except the memories.

Fleet ASW School, San Diego Google Earth view


Posted in FLASWSCHL SDIEGO, Navy, San Diego, school, torpedoes, torpedoman | Leave a Comment »

From Rochester to San Diego

Posted by sundoulos2005 on October 10, 2007

My leave following boot camp was over. Attired in dress blues — tunic with neckerchief and bell bottom trousers with the thirteen-button flap — I bade my family farewell and headed to the Greater Rochester International Airport. That’s a mighty big name for a mighty small airport. I flew from there to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport which, at that time, was the busiest passenger airport in the country.

I had a layover there. I do not remember how long it was, but there was sufficient time for me to find a restaurant and have a leisurely meal. As I was waiting for my meal I looked around to observe the others in the establishment. My eyes fell upon a small group: two men and a blonde-haired woman, as I recollect. One of the men I recognized as Dr. Sam Shepherd, just released from prison after serving approximately ten years for bludgeoning his wife to death. Dr. Shepherd is attributed as being the inspiration for the TV series The Fugitive. The woman was his girlfriend or his second wife (I don’t remember the details). The second man was probably his lawyer. I knew my folks would not believe my story of having seen them so I took a picture as proof. Alas, my mother appropriated it and it disappeared.

From Chicago I flew to Los Angeles where I landed at the airport with the spaceship-looking building. I had previously seen pictures of it, but I was awed at seeing it in person. Aside from the Theme Building, as that structure is officially called, the most striking thing I remember was not being able to see any skyscrapers. That, to me, was truly remarkable.

Two other things also caught my attention. Inside the terminal area there was a display of very sensual lingerie. I had never seen anything like that on display even in the lingerie departments of stores back East. It was somewhat of an eye-opener and shocking. Nowadays, no one would think anything of it, but this was 1964. The other thing was that there were penny jars placed about the airport. Copper and pennies were in short supply that year because so many people were hoarding their pennies. The jars were there to collect from passersby. I don’t know how successful they were. I know I did not contribute.

I had the good fortune while there to run into a gentleman whose son was in the service. He took it upon himself to buy me lunch and to entertain me with stories of the area. He, like I, was going to San Diego.

The flight from LA to San Diego was uneventful — until final approach. I was a bit nervous. The ride down to the grown was turbulent and a bit steep. We came in over downtown San Diego and seemed like we barely cleared the buildings. We landed without incident and taxied to the terminal where I collected my belongings and went outside into the warm southern California air. The palms, the surrounding mountains, the desert-like atmosphere all thrilled me. I fell in love with San Diego and knew I would enjoy my stay there.

Posted in Los Angeles airport, O"Hare International Airport, Sam Shepherd, San Diego, The Fugitive | Leave a Comment »